Students for a Smarter Planet ..leaders with conscience
Government
October 28th, 2014
11:28
 

Take a look around you right now. You may be sitting in front of a computer and, chances are, there’s a phone or some other “smart” device in your vicinity. There have been plenty of conversations about whether or not robots could – or should – be entrusted with life and death decisions.  The United States Office of Naval Research announced a five year, $7.5 million grant to study the possibilities for creating moral robots. The five year program includes researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Tufts, Brown, Georgetown, and Yale Universities.

blog moral robot

BEAR, or Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot, is designed to help soldiers in need. But other robots could take on roles as combatants.

Besides all of the many technological challenges, the prospect of creating robots with morals raises an intriguing question:  whose morals?

The basic idea is to create an infantile robot capable of acquiring moral sensibilities. That might result in a more human-like morality, but engineers have less control over the end result and there are risks in that, as well.

There are many questions about the ethicality of building moral robots, moral dilemmas which we have yet to work out. What’s your take?

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Just following the People’s Climate March in NYC, Rick McGahey, who teaches economics and public policy at The New School, published an CNN Opinion article.

In the article, Rick tries to debunk the notion that helping our environment would hurt our economy. Though transitioning would cost more, the end result would actually create new US jobs.  Studies have shown that for every $1 million of investment in clean energy, the U.S. can create 16.7 jobs compared with only 5.3 jobs from fossil fuel investments.

blog carbon

Read the article here.  Where do you weigh in with this debate?  And, more importantly, do you have the expertise for one of these newly created jobs?

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October 23rd, 2014
9:13
 

With the hazards of Ebola and anti-government protests and genocide being front and center in the news, we sometimes overlook the many organizations quietly operating in the background to bring assistance to those in strife or peril.  I ran across this entity quite by accident as part of my work for university programming.  Maybe your studies will bring you to become part of their efforts? Click on the logo below to learn more…

TIDES stands for Transformative Innovation for Development and Emergency Support. This research project is coordinated at the Center for Technology and National Security Policy (CTNSP) at the National Defense University (NDU), which is part of the Department of Defense.

startidesSTAR-TIDES (Sharing To Accelerate Research-Transformative Innovation for Development and Emergency Support) is a research effort that promotes sustainable support to stressed populations – post-war, post-disaster, or impoverished, in foreign or domestic contexts, for short-term or long-term (multi-year) operations. The project provides reach-back “knowledge on demand” to decision-makers and those working in the field. It uses public-private partnerships and “whole-of-government” approaches to encourage unity of action among diverse organizations where there is no unity of command, and facilitates both inter-agency and international engagement.

TIDES has three strategies that frame everything they do:

  • Leverage Global Talent
  • Promote Integrated Approaches
  • Sustain through the Private Sector

 

There are internships available through the National Defense University – check it out!

2014 Star-Tides interns building sustainable village models. Photo credit: NDU AV.

2014 Star-Tides interns building sustainable village models. Photo credit: NDU AV.

 

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October 15th, 2014
6:25
 

Here in the U.S., there’s been a growing trend to give incentives to people who reduce their use of non-earth friendly carriers (e.g., plastic bags).  While they are convenient, most are NOT biodegradable and create mountains of waste.  There has been some success – I’ve seen lots of shoppers at the grocery stores and farmers’ markets using canvas or cloth bags for their purchases.  Small victories, to be sure…but they do add up!

The Scottish have taken this further and there is a Parliamentary pledge for the entire country:

and click here to read the clip about:

The Zero Waste Scotland Carrier Bag Commitment

The Scottish Parliament has passed legislation that will require ALL retailers (food and non-food) to charge a minimum of 5p for each new single-use carrier bag (including paper, those made from some plant based materials and plastic), from 20th October 2014.

The Carrier Bag Commitment will recognise businesses who donate the proceeds from the bag charge to good causes, and all retailers are being urged to sign-up, free of charge.Here’s a story about one retailer, Superdry,  that’s taking the Pledge and donating their proceeds to the Trees for Life charity in the U.K.

Think about what kind of ‘bag-gage’ you use and carry – and make a conscious effort to reduce, reuse and recycle.  It’s good for everyone!

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3D Printing is going off-roading – or, more accurately, off-Earth-ing! Thanks to some really intense work done by Made In Space for NASA, the

First Zero-G 3D Printer Is On Its Way To The Space Station

Credit:  Made In Space

Credit: Made In Space

While there are many unique challenges inherent in this endeavor, the aim is to provide a means for parts replication, food production, and other ‘manufactured’ items on-site in space to lessen the weight of the provisions which astronauts have been carrying from necessity in previous space missions.

Here are some other articles from various sources about the topic:

Space.com       NASA       Nature.com

Can you offer your skills to address some of the hurdles that must be overcome to make this a viable reality for space travel?  And maybe take a trip among the stars yourself??

 

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